Yoni Gordon does a stylistic 180 on Fearless Mortal Inventory, veering away from ear-worm pop songs to brooding abysses of doleful contemplation as he explores the ideas of pain and barriers.

If Yoni Gordon is afraid of anything, it is certainly not genre-hopping.

The eccentric Boston-based multi-instrumentalist frequently shifts from style to style with each release, from the energetic guitar solos of his 2005 release I Sing the Hollow Body Electric, to the peppier, sweeping rock anthems on 2012’s The Hard Way and 2016’s Why Oh and I. His latest LP, Fearless Mortal Inventory, is an energized, experimental step in a new direction of sincerely opening up to listeners; he takes a sound explored occasionally in his previous releases and runs with it. It’s slower and more meditative than much of his previous work, often venturing into the political as Gordon projects his own notions of pain and barriers onto anxieties surrounding the Trump administration.

The opener, “Wait Until the Morning Light,” is a reserved, more contemplative and hopeful track that evokes the charisma of much of his earlier work, truly representative of his growth as an artist. It fuses the energy of his previous releases with the zen wisdom and contemplation of the artist in 2019. His voice soars over droning accordions, chiming words of comfort to anybody listening: “Nothing ever lasts, wait until the morning light / You know that hard times will pass, wait until the morning light.”

Gordon wastes no time venturing further into new territory, opting on “Song of the Summer” for a heavy, electronic production and vocoded singing—a shining example of the album’s more frenetic side. Despite this exploration, the song’s tone remains quite triumphant, with Gordon imagining a hypothetical “song of the summer” that unites people, lifting them out of their misfortunes and into a happier future. He expresses frustration (“What I don’t understand / Is how the promise of man is always out of reach”) while soon circling back to his familiar hope motif (“But the summer goes on just as long as this song / Gets stuck somewhere weak in your head.”)

In keeping with Gordon’s more intimate stylistic shift, Fearless Mortal Inventory often veers into the atmospheric and serene, notably and most poignantly on the exasperated and weary “Give the Ending Away,” and the melancholic “All My Life.” Both tracks contrast sharply with the album’s livelier content, with Gordon, here, throwing in the towel for an intimate show of vulnerability—e.g. on “All My Life”: “Signal started fading / Somewhere down the line / Did my best to tell myself / That everything was fine.”

And many of the other songs on Fearless Mortal Inventory maintain a peppiness on par with “Song of the Summer,” yet still keeping an impressive amount of depth. “The Wrong Man” jolts audiences after the somber “No Tongue Can Tell It,” addressing the Trump administration by name, proclaiming, “I said oh no I don’t understand / How so much of the power ends up in the hands / Of the wrong man.”

Fearless Mortal Inventory ends, fittingly, with regrets and contemplations. In “Life of the Mind,” Gordon sings about a past that he wishes he could “wash away”: “I was tired of swinging at the end of my rope / I had reached out and grabbed on, then let go of the hope / Of ever letting go of the things I had done / I swear I never meant to hurt anyone.” The song’s energy builds over military march–esque swingy snare hits, around which an acoustic guitar swirls and Gordon’s voice soars as he laments the inability to escape his mental barriers: “They say the walls of this prison are only as high / As the ones that we build up inside of our mind / I know there’s no escape, there’s only survive / To see another day break in the life of the mind.” 

Yoni Gordon has not only blended styles with Fearless Mortal Inventory, but has also extended beyond that, assigning meaning to these shifts by actualizing his new philosophy of opening himself up to an audience previously familiar with his more upbeat M.O. He has channeled his anger, regret, and desperation into more manageable, approachable chunks—in a way, almost incorporating and addressing each topic by making an intimate connection to the current U.S. political culture. In order to better confront these feelings, as Gordon opined on the album, one must unite with their community around even the smallest of things—whether that be hope, discontent, or even something as simple as a poppy summer song.

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